the scottish episcopal church

A New History, by gavin white




Eighteenth Century




Oxford Movement



Church or Province

'English Episcopal'


Social Service

Synods and Councils

Clergy Training

A Small Dog Barking

As Others See Us



Second World War and After

Selected bibliography


7 - Glasgow

"The Episcopal Church in the West of Scotland seems to have been almost entirely wiped out. I can never find a West of Scotland man who is an hereditary Episcopalian. The Church seems to have been wiped away just as a man wipes a dish, and turns it upside down." So wrote Bishop Harrison in 1901, and only his assumption that men do the washing-up will surprise us. Glasgow and the west were not Episcopalian territory. Yet Glasgow did have groups of Episcopalians passing through from time to time, and they joined for worship from time to time. We know that a Mr. Burgess took Church of England services in 1703. We know that Adam Cockburn who "audaciously read the English service in the churchyard over an English soldier's grave" was driven out by a mob in 1712 or just after. Then came Alexander Duncan with a chapel off the High Street, from which he was forced to move to a dwelling house in 1728. In 1740 came George Graham ministering in Candleriggs, and Thomas Lyon from St.Andrews in Fife ministered from 1750 until 1778, with a small hall in Stockwell Street. There followed Andrew Wood, Alexander McDonald, and most notably Alexander Jamieson from Marykirk, north of Montrose, who led this congregation from 1788 until 1823, latterly in a room at the Grammar School on George Street. (1)

But the crushing of the Jacobite cause after the 1745 rising brought about a major change. Many Episcopalians had not supported that rising, and were now happy to pray for King George. Accordingly, nine of them, "disconsolate sons of the Church of England", petitioned the Archbishop of York for a clergyman - - in fact eight of the nine were actually Scots. In 1750 they built St.Andrew's-by-the-Green, named for and supposedly copied on the design of the nearby Parish Church. That this work employed off-duty soldiers of Major Wolfe, later the hero of Quebec, and that Wolfe himself actually worshipped there, later became a useful legend; it established the loyalty of the congregation in the face of hostility which lingered into the next century. Of the clergy, the first stayed one year, then the Rev.J.Falconer lasted from 1751 until 1807, then Dean Routledge until 1843, there was another brief interlude, and Dr.J.F.S.Gordon was incumbent from 1844 until 1890. (2)

Gordon was phenomenal. On the one hand he was a scholar and antiquarian, re-editing old collections of documents, and in Glasghu Facies making available old records of the city. On the other hand, he was an advanced High Churchman, in a congregation already noted for that. There was said to be a surpliced choir from 1795 until 1812, when all the gowns were robbed, but this probably refers to clergy robes. The two thieves were sentenced to death, but the minister and churchwardens asked for mercy, and they were merely transported. And Gordon was accused by a Mr. Wallace of introducing a choral service only in 1864, when "twelve surpliced juveniles walked in", and there were "two lighted candles on the Communion table", while Dr.Gordon intoned the prayers in a fashion "unnatural and artificial". Wallace then went elsewhere, annoying Gordon as he had not paid the balance of his seat-rent, or a promised contribution to the music fund, and if he did not pay, snorted Gordon, his "sofa cushion" would be handed over to the police. In his early days Gordon used to walk the five miles to Pollokshaws to take service for the cavalry on a Sunday afternoon, and walk back. In his last days he became increasingly eccentric, published ridiculous advertisements for his evening services at "Susanna Rig", as he called the church, and asserted that St.Andrew's was his own property, though he wanted rid of it, and signed it over to the diocese. In fact its trustees had "failed", so their duties devolved on the trustees of a doctor from the West Indies, who would not act, and all this took some sorting out. (3)

Meanwhile, Jamieson's congregation had, after failing to join with St. Andrew's when the issue of being Jacobite or Hanoverian was ancient history, built a chapel on Renfield Street in 1825. This was called St.Mary's, and there is still a St.Mary's Lane to mark its site. It was a notable building holding over nine hundred, its trustees were all prominent citizens with English surnames, and its baptismal register shows that half the congregation were English and half Scottish, with a scattering of Irish and a few Germans. The minister was George Almond, who had assisted Jamieson, and was known for a mild evangelicalism. He continued until 1848 when W.J.Trower, an Oxford man, became both bishop and minister of St.Mary's. He resigned St.Mary's after only four years, but remained bishop until 1859, spending most of his time in climes more suited to the health of his wife and, latterly, himself. But Trower had an able assistant in R.S.Oldham, another Oxford man, and a Hebrew scholar of such talent that he might better have led the Church of England through its difficult encounter with Old Testament criticism than by his labours in Glasgow. Succeeding Trower as senior minister in 1853, he continued until 1878, by which time he had moved St.Mary's to Great Western Road, in the fashionable West End, where a great Gothic church was erected in 1871 to the designs of George Gilbert Scott. (4)

In 1908 that church became the cathedral under the leadership of F.Ll.Deane, who had arrived in Glasgow in 1904 and stayed until he became Bishop of Aberdeen in 1917, from which post he retired in 1943. Deane was a bouncy Englishman with a prep-school manner, a great deal of good will, a social conscience, and administrative ability. A constant talker, he turned St.Mary's around liturgically, with candles, vestments, reservation, and all with no "discord" as his "boyish fun and irrepressible humour" could carry almost everyone with him. And he also had oversight of four mission churches, there being eighteen curates on the staff when he arrived. As if that were not enough, he is said to have taught himself Icelandic, though we may express doubts about that. (5)

Another great work was Christ Church in the East End. It began in 1835 on Main Street in Bridgeton and had a chapel on Claythorn Street. The church was consecrated in 1856, largely financed by the Rev. David Aitchison, with a congregation mainly Irish but with some Highlanders, though it began amongst weavers. "In Calton and Mile End and Camlachie were a few rows of one-storey cottages where the weavers lived and worked. Between and around the rows were the country mansions of Glasgow merchants, each with its garden and orchard; an easy half-hour's drive from Trongate and Virginia Street." But, "Coal and iron wiped out the country houses" as Glasgow grew, and all that remained of the merchants were streets named for their wives, Annfield and Bellfield and Janefield. The work was built up by Dean James Watson Reid, "In his early days, Christ Church had its carriage congregation from the big country houses of the Lower Ward of Lanarkshire, the names of which survive only in the street names of East End Glasgow. The military paraded every Sunday from the barracks in Gallowgate. But by the end of Dean Reid's incumbency the entire district was one vast slum in which the valiant old man fought a losing battle to the end."

But Christ Church will always be associated with the name of John McBain, a native of Rathen in farthest Buchan, who went from Aberdeen Grammar School to Aberdeen University, was a teacher under Canon Jupp at Aberlour, then to Coates Hall and in 1898 as deacon to St.Mary Magdalene's in Dundee. After the death of Watson Reid in 1902, Mitchell-Innes took over at Christ Church with McBain as his curate, St.Cuthbert's being one chapel, and St.Columba's, formerly independent, another. St.Paul's, Parkhead, was added to the list, and St.Stephen's, Rutherglen, which was then "allowed to go its own erratic way" under a priest who broke off from the diocese. McBain became rector in 1909, and the nave of the new Christ Church at Brook Street was erected five years later. By 1920 McBain was a Labour councillor for Glasgow, and spent thirty-seven years in the parish, proudly stating, "There is no such completely proletarian mass of people anywhere in these islands." It was the custom to parade the parish led by choir, crucifer, and bagpipes, allowing McBain to preach at factory gates. But McBain retired in ill health in 1935, dying the following year, as did his brother and successor, Alexander McBain, who had been a teacher in Newfoundland, was twice elected to the City Council, and was ordained for Christ Church. From 1936 until 1948 the rector was William Cooper, later chaplain in Coates Hall, who was not only a devoted priest but an historian of talent. (6)

On the South Side, there were endless attempts to begin work amongst Irish and others, but congregations at Tradeston and the Gorbals were short-lived. Eventually a major church was built in 1873 on a site donated by the laird of Pollok, and named for St.Ninian. Its first priest, if we ignore men such as Malcolm MacColl who had laboured amongst the unresponsive migrant workers from England and Ireland before money was found to build St.Ninian's, was M.B.Hutchison, who stayed from 1870 until 1920. He was of Presbyterian origin, his brother being a noted minister, but became Church of England at Oxford, looking forward in the foundation stone of St.Ninian's for the day when Scots would abandon all their sects for the one true church. A powerful ally was Robert Allan Ogg, a founder of various retail clothing firms from the 1850s onward, who had taught Sunday school classes in the Gorbals mission on Bedford Street. His daughter Jenny was to marry E.J.Petrie, a St.Ninian's curate who had returned to his native Aberdeenshire to be rector at New Pitsligo. (7)

It was R.A.Ogg, by now chairman of Copland and Lye on Sauchiehall Street, who offered to pay the entire cost of the original St.Margaret's, Newlands, provided that his son-in-law should be priest-in-charge. The work of St.Margaret's, supposedly named for Hutchison's wife, had begun in 1898 in a shop by the bridge over the White Cart, where the new Cathcart Circle suburban railway was bringing housing out to open fields. The first church was built in 1908, and became the hall when a grander building, largely financed by the Ogg family and filled with Ogg memorials, was opened in 1912 with the chancel completed in 1918. And E.J.Petrie remained for twenty-five years, keeping St.Margaret's to an old-fashioned High Church standard such as he had known in his youth. But if the church was kept to a particular pattern, perhaps he also was prevented from developing. He was one of four brothers, at one time all priests in rural Aberdeenshire, as was their father. And his abilities might have been more widely used; he was one of a number of Scottish clergy of whom it was said that they should have been bishops instead of the incomers from the south. (8)

But Glasgow was special in the church. No other area had such vast numbers of migrants, and no other area had as many English. In 1900 there were more English-born than Irish-born in Scotland, and a Glasgow census of 1894 estimated that four per cent of those surveyed were at least nominally Church of England, while in some areas there were ten percent. Of course many of these were virtually unchurched before leaving England, and others joined Church of Scotland parishes or Free Churches, but that still left a large number to whom Episcopalian ministrations would have been welcome. And few of these had any tradition of self-support in matters religious; churches were provided and clergymen were provided, and that was that. Providing them with churches and clergy was seen to be the duty of the whole Episcopal Church, and even of the Church of England which contributed through the Million Shilling Fund. And bishops in Glasgow were considered to carry burdens unknown to others. (9)

The great missionary bishop was A.E.Campbell, a Scot educated and ordained in England who had returned to Scotland to be provost at St.Ninian's Cathedral in Perth. He presided over the last programme of expansion before the church ran out of steam. Bishop from 1904 until 1921, he held the ideas one might expect of someone from his background, but in fact they did not really matter as he could not implement them anyway. He believed in great churches with large numbers of curates, instead of a whole lot of little chapels, some of them "mere rabbit hutches", in which were "a number of priests starving in solitude". This was typical of an upper class Englishman who felt that most clergy had to be led by superior beings, and in his day there were complaints in England that dividing urban parishes was counter-productive as there were not enough clergy with leadership characteristics to be their vicars. But in fact he had not the money to build these large churches, and nobody else had much use for them anyway. The only one built in his day was St.Margaret's, and that depended not so much on the visions of Bishop Campbell as on R.A.Ogg's successful career in gents' suitings and his daughter's romance with a curate. Other expansion in Glasgow was undertaken on a local basis in response to demand from settlers in particular areas, and not by a grand plan worked out by the bishop. This was in fact the only way it could have been undertaken, but it did not sit well with the cult of leadership. (10)

But Bishop Campbell also complained that he did not have enough of "the right sort of clergy", by which he almost certainly meant men like himself from public schools. In fact he had a mix which was almost ideal. Of thirty clergy in 1910, thirteen were graduates of Scottish universities, ten of English universities, and one of an Irish university, and twenty had been ordained in Scotland. Campbell was a pleasant and hard-working bishop, but the successful expansion of the diocese in his time depended more on the desire of people for churches than any skill in providing them. (11)

His successor was that E.T.S.Reid whose election was held to have shown that "No Scotsmen need apply" would never again apply, though of course it did. Reid's grandfather was a Perthshire laird, and his father had owned the largest locomotive factory in Europe. As rector of St.Bride's he had devoted some of that wealth to building one side of a grand church of which the other side never came to be. He was not the ordinary sort of Scotsman who need not apply. But Reid had a sensible plan for church extension. He took a map of Glasgow and marked out twenty-two areas which lacked Episcopal churches, and began to raise money to buy good sites on main streets, each having a hall for use as a temporary church, to be turned over to the congregation debt-free, with room for a larger church on one side. But the times had changed, decline had set in, and only six sites were developed in any way and only four halls actually built. (12)

The cause of that decline was not understood at the time, and it may be doubted if it is widely understood now. It was not realised that there were waves in religious life, and that when these waves turned against the church, King Canute could do nothing to stop them. Nor was it understood that the decline in church membership which became apparent from 1921 ran right across all denominations; Episcopalians largely denied that it even touched them. Dean Farquhar in Perth wrote in his diary of "a wave of non-churchgoing", Canon Henderson-Begg of St.Paul's, York Place, was ahead of his time in noticing a decline in attendance in 1925, and Canon Petrie of St.Margaret's observed the same thing in 1926 - - but was then horrified when Canon Beard of Helensburgh suggested a halt in church extension due to the decline of spiritual life. There had been 38,536 adherents in the diocese in 1900, and 55,816 in 1920, but these had fallen to 48,037 by 1930, and were to fall to 28,950 by 1970. Yet considerable ingenuity was devoted to ignoring these figures. (13)

This could be done as decline began at the fringes, ate away the non-communicants, and left remaining non-communicants aware of their isolation, so that some left, but others joined the ranks of the communicants, which rose temporarily. This sped the switch to the Eucharist as the main service of Sunday, which brought the last non-communicants over. This suggested a more committed membership, which would mean a more missionary church, though the potential evangelists in any church are those with one foot in secular society, and these were now disappearing. But optimism continued. Bishop How said as he retired in 1952 that fifty new plantings of churches had occurred in the last fifty years, but only one in his episcopate, which in fact died soon after, yet there had been much "consolidation", and, "I believe I can foresee a really great forward movement with the right man to lead." It all depended on the leader. (14)

Or it depended on changing the laity for a better laity. Successive Glasgow synod clerks read out depressing statistics and then said, as in 1958, "if church membership has numerically decreased, the quality of churchmanship has definitely improved." In 1959 Alastair Haggart of St.Oswald's, King's Park, threw cold water on such notions, but they came back the following year and regularly thereafter. And we can see the process in the magazine of St.Mary's Cathedral. In 1943 Provost Murray wrote an "Epistle" to his congregation, in which he complained of a lack of definiteness in their faith, while in 1946 Provost Leonard was "starting a Church Tutorial Class to create a core of really instructed Churchmen", and in 1956 Provost Laming was indignant that he only had 93 present at some Sunday service out of 800 or 900 "so-called members". Clergy, or at least these clergy, wanted to do things, but were held back by laity, and saw it as their job to make the laity more like the clergy. In fact the laity were hanging on by their fingernails in a world which had turned against churchgoing, and they needed support, not blame. Furthermore, the particular aspects of the faith which kept the laity going were likely to be the ones which might prove attractive to possible enquirers, though there could never have been many of these. But it was thought that by starting this course of instruction, or that system of organisation, that the laity might be "enabled" to evangelise people. Yet the people outside were better known to the laity than to the clergy, who mainly worked and lived amongst their own. If the laity did not evangelise it was because they, more than the clergy, knew what the obstacles were. (15)

Yet schemes to turn the laity into evangelists followed one another with relentless regularity. And all these schemes placed the emphasis on the evangelists and not on those to be evangelised. It was assumed that people outside the church had no will of their own and could be brought in if the church could just find the right formula. "It may well be that future generations of Episcopalians in Scotland will regard August 16, 1941, as a turning point in the history of their branch of the Church." It might well have been, but in fact it was not. The 1941 conference at Perth was only one of many that were supposed to turn the tide, but King Canute was not the only one to be swamped. Numbers rose in the revival of the 1950s, though the longterm decline continued underneath, and that decline is still with us. (16)

But since the tide could not be turned, church after church was closed and demolished. St. Andrew's-by-the-Green was closed in 1974; the building is now used by a housing society. Christ Church initially survived the bulldozers of East End renewal and stood, a gaunt improbability in a waste of desolation, for years - - but now it, too, is gone. And so are Holy Trinity, and St.John's, and St.Paul's, and St.Barnabas' (two of them), and St.Christopher's, and St.Luke's which began as St.Mungo's, Townhead, and St.Peter's which was the "poor" chapel for St.Mary's, Renfield Street, and was as glorious a work as any in Episcopal history, and St.Columba's, and St.Cuthbert's, and St.Faith's, and St.Patrick's, and St.Mark's, and St. Gabriel's, and St.David's, and St.Saviour's, and St.Margaret and St.Mungo's in the Gorbals, and St.Matthias', all of which were at one time loved by their people, and all of which brought life and joy where there was little of it to be found. They served the needs of their generation, and their departure should not be taken for misery.

(1) Scottish Guardian 1901 p 663; John Oswald Mitchell, Old Glasgow Essays p 61 (Glasgow 1905); W.Cleland, Enumerations p 72 (Glasgow 1832)
(2) Scottish Chronicle 1925 p 810
(3) Scottish Guardian June 1 1871 pp 14-15, 1879 p 485, 1884 p 289, 1889 p 470, 1890 p 452, 1904 p 8; Scottish Chronicle 1921 p 460; W.J.Wallace, Reasons for Seceding from St. Andrew's Episcopal Church (Glasgow 1864)
(4) Glasgow Herald May 9 1825; Scottish Record Office PR Book 374 folio 200; St. Mary's Glasgow Baptismal Register by the Rev. George Almond, Presbyter of the Scottish Episcopal Church; Scottish Guardian 1931 p 105
(5) Scottish Chronicle 1917 p 370
(6) Scottish Guardian 1932 p 614, 1934 p 835, May 8 1936 p 5, May 29 1936 p 7, Sep 4 1936 p 9, Feb 18 1938 p 8
(7) A History of St Margaret's Episcopal Church, Newlands(Glasgow 1945 ?)
(8) Glasgow Herald Jan 1 1923
(9) Scottish Guardian 1901 pp 663-664; Drummond and Bulloch, Church in Victorian Scotland p 70
(10) G.T.S. Farquhar (ed), The Right Reverend Archibald Ean Campbell - A Memoir pp 113, 185, 187 (Dumfries 1924)
(11) Year Book and Directory - Episcopal Church in Scotland 1910
(12) Scottish Chronicle 1921 p 377; Diocese of Glasgow and Galloway - Diocesan Council Feb 6 1924, Feb 5 1925, Feb 3 1926
(13) Scottish Chronicle 1924 pp 649, 410, 1926 p 55, 1927 p 477, 1928 pp 125-6; Scottish Guardian 1931 pp 273, 294; Dean Farquhar's Diaries June 8 1921; R.Currie, A.Gilbert, L.Horsley, Churches and Churchgoers - Patterns of Church Growth in the British Isles since 1870 p 98 (Oxford 1977)
(14) Diocese of Glasgow and Galloway - Diocesan Council Feb 11-12 1952
(15) Diocese of Glasgow and Galloway - Diocesan Council Feb 5-6 1958,
Feb 4-5 1959, Feb 7-8 1961; Scottish Guardian Mar 19 1943;
St Mary's Magazine Glasgow 1949 and 1956
(16) Scottish Guardian Aug 22 1941 p 10
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